I’m so confused. Last Thursday, it seemed everyone was talking about Hampton Business School’s restrictive regulation banning male students from wearing cornrows and/or dreadlocks. There were news stories popping up on nearly every respectable site with a quote by B-school Dean Sid Credle: "I mean, Charles Drew didn't wear [cornrows or locs], Muhammad Ali didn't wear it, Martin Luther King didn't wear it.”
Turns out this latest “news” about the hair code for male graduate students isn’t so new after all. The regulation has been on the books since circa 2001, and it was just as scandalous back then as it is now. I have no idea why or how the story was resurrected last week without any new developments, other than the dean saying he stands by the ban — but I suppose it’s never too late to speak out against foolishness, even if it’s a decade in.
I have no problem with locs. They’re beautiful and I’m not aware of a negative stigma that is still associated with them — unlike, say, cornrows. Personally — and I know I’m not alone in this — I’m not a fan of cornrows on guys. That extends to children, teenagers and grown men, but especially men. On a man, that style reads to me as... honestly? I wonder if he’s an ex-con, if for no other reason than cornrows on men haven’t been in style since — at the absolute latest — 2002. I assume for a man to still wear them all these many years later means they were in style when he went in, and he hasn’t been out long enough to catch up to the times. That, or he just never grew up and doesn’t pay attention to the world around him.
But whatever my personal feelings about locs or cornrows, I’d still argue in favor of an institution of higher learning focusing more on teaching and less on policing the hair of its adult students.
Of course, stigmas exist about Black hair — and really, Black people, period. But the ones about our hair aren’t going anywhere, especially when our institutions look down on them. It would be more helpful to students to inform them of what biases may exist in the workforce and allow them to decide how they will choose to wear their hair. After all, they are adults. A good friend pointed out that I was looking at this issue the wrong way. Contrary to popular belief (and my own) that the school had robbed students with locs and cornrows of choice, he argued, “Hampton has given them the ultimate choice: Students can still choose to go somewhere else.”
Do you agree or disagree with Hampton’s hair regulation for male MBA students?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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